Today's post is the last of my guest posts scheduled for the month. I hope you've loved hearing from them as much as I have! You can read Julie's post on summer date ideas here, and Natasha's post here to learn how to make some super cute summertime placemats.
This post is extra special because I'm introducing you all to my sister-in-law Rachael! She and my little brother Sam celebrated their first anniversary on the 12th and so I asked if Rach would be willing to share a few things she's learned as a young wife.
I can relate so much to the tips she is sharing and I know you all will too. Be sure to check out more of her heart-felt, beautiful words on her blog here.
People getting to know me are often surprised to hear that I am already married.
"Wow! You look so young!"
"I thought you were like... 17 or something."
I even had one girl tell me, "You're too pretty to be married." :) Well... okay. (I guess people are supposed to grow uglier after they've said their vows?) I really don't feel like I was married "super young", though I probably was. To be fair, I never thought I'd be married so soon--though I didn't see myself finding Mr. Right late in life either. Life just worked out that way for me, I guess.
It's kinda trending in my circle of friends to get married young right now. I'm excited for them, and I support them wholeheartedly with their decision to tie the knot. I remember having conversations with Sam about how long we should wait before we got married. Sam told me that he had always thought he'd wait until he was at least 20 to get married. We set a prospective 2-3 year wait on ourselves since we started dating when he was 17 and I was 18. As we grew closer, we felt that it was more important to live a pure life and honor God with our relationship rather than to wait and make poor choices because "we weren't old enough to get married". So, on July 12, 2014 we were married on a perfect Summer day--7 months before Sam's 20th birthday.
Though I support young marriage, I won't pretend that it is always easy. There were a lot of things I wish I knew before getting married that have been hard lessons to swallow. What's ironic is that some of these things I already knew! Or thought I did. It's amazing how living with another person brings out all the crazy, messy, and often ugly things out to the light.
Though I don't claim to be an expert on marriage by any means (far, far from it) there are a few things I would suggest to young couples who are married, or thinking about getting married soon, that I have learned and found helpful in our own relationship.
So here we go.
1// Things are almost always different than you expect.
Something that really blindsided me when we got married was just how different my expectations were from reality. After Sam proposed, I remember going home and almost existing in a state of dull numbness and shock. I was happy, yes--very happy that he had actually asked, but I wasn't bursting with all the bubbly, over-excited feelings that I thought I should be having. I grew a little frustrated with myself because I didn't feel the way one should feel after being engaged. This feeling of expectation traveled with me even through the wedding ceremony, after our first kiss, and up until now. I still don't know if I should feel any different after being married to my best friend for a year. The movies always make the scene where the bride walks down the aisle look glamorous and like it's the moment she's been living for her whole life. I have always been happy that I am Sam's bride, but the actual wedding day sprinted past and left me wondering if there was something wrong with me for feeling--or not feeling--the way I thought I should.
What I came to realize after all of this is that instead of growing frustrated with how I thought things should be, I should instead learn to love things for the way they are. Maybe things aren't always as memorable, flashy, or fulfilling as I thought. Instead of feeling like I'm missing out, perhaps I can move past that and learn to savor each moment for being a great real moment instead of the fantasy I dreamed up.
2// Communication is essential.
Yeah, they always say this during your pre-marital classes, but I never realized how much it really comes into effect until I had to share my everyday with someone who thinks really different from me. I often feel sorry for Sam because he has to deal with an emotional, indecisive, woman who thinks he should already get some things by now. We struggled a lot while we were dating with my difficulty with speaking my thoughts and feelings. I'm one of those people that doesn't like to hurt people's feelings or deal with conflict, so it was really a stretch for me to tell Sam everything. I have a hard time identifying with women who say that their men don't ever talk or share their feelings with them because my experience has been just the opposite. Sam shared everything with me and I've had to learn how to be more honest with him.
Sam has repeatedly told me that if I don't tell him something, he's not going to know it himself. So at those times that I got mad at him for not helping me out with the chores, he didn't know that his actions were hurting me because I didn't make it clear. It's tempting for me to assume that men are just more dense toward certain issues, but I know that for myself, I have a bad habit of beating around the bush when I want something. Being more attuned to his wife's needs and hints is something that the guy won't know right away. He'll have to work on it and learn over time, but he really needs his wife to be more straightforward with him as well.
3// Be patient with changes.
This one goes along with point 2. When your spouse is learning to be a better mate, try not to get on them for the slow process that it takes for them to change. Sometimes the very things that you'll be asking them to change will be habits and actions that are just a normal part of life to them. They may have lived with some of these habits since they were children and they won't be able to just change overnight. Sometimes your husband or wife may have some struggles in their life that hurt you. When they come to a point where they want to change those things, be sure that you recognize their efforts and growth from where they came from. Be sure that they know that you are standing beside them in their fight to better themselves and that you will be their biggest supporter and cheerleader. They'll appreciate knowing that you are on their side more than your complaints and nagging over their failures.
4// Spend time to get to know them.
This is true both before and after you are married. The thing most people worry about for young couples is that they're rushing into their decision to get married without fully realizing what their getting in to. I do encourage young couples to spend time getting to know each other's character more than just their interests and physical attractiveness.
My husband and I waited to share our first kiss at the altar. Though this isn't what we expect for everyone's relationship, we felt that it was something special we would do that we would share only for the one we got married to. Because we waited to do this we felt that we really got to know each other's character and personality more.
It is common in our culture today to think that in order to really know if someone is a right fit for you, you have to "try them out". My philosophy is that you can always get to know those things after you're married, but you can't take them back after you find out that their character doesn't work with yours. When dating, I feel that it is best to spend a lot of time doing "friend things" together to find out if this person is the one you want to be with for the rest of your life. And after you tie the knot, don't neglect spending time together on those "friend things"--be sure to make time in your busy schedules to go on dates with your spouse.
5// Have an unlimited supply of forgiveness.
I hate that phrase, "loving means never having to say you're sorry," because it couldn't be farther from the truth. I'm actually convinced that telling your spouse that you're sorry is one of the most loving things you can say to them sometimes. You'll have plenty of opportunities to say it and so will they. Living in a broken world, we will all have our bad days, (or bad weeks). This imperfect human you're living with will make mistakes and hurt you deeper than anyone else can. It is important to be quick to forgive and not allow chance for bitterness to grow roots. Sometimes your guy or gal will make the same mistake multiple times within the same day, but you'll want to work it out and forgive them again.
6// Grow together.
You are both a team. Being young has its advantages. You get to have the chance to grow up and learn valuable life lessons together, where people who meet later in life have already set themselves in a certain direction. You don't have to have everything settled or figured out. You'll figure those things out together. You'll go through your scary first apartment, or having one of you work full-time while the other is in college. All these experiences will grow you closer together as a couple. They are hard things to go through, frustrating at times, but they help you grow up as one.
Your willingness to serve your spouse will help you both make it in this scary adult world. :) Sometimes I had to realize that things were not all about me (No, duh!). Sometimes I have to make sacrifices and focus on doing what's best for both of us and not just what I want to do. This is all part of growing up with my husband, and I am still learning all of these things everyday.
As I look back on one year of marriage behind us, I am so thankful for all the things we've already grown in and for all the years and adventures to come.